There is nothing more fiercely gratifying than a life steeped in total purpose—and within the 200 pages of stunning photography, prose and reportage that make up its first issue, The Collective Quarterly magazine documents those who aim to fulfill just that: living well. What exactly is the criteria for aiming to live well? “It’s first about character: living thoughtfully, with the goal of treating others well,” Seth Putnam, Editorial Director of The Collective Quarterly, tells CH. “Next, it’s about telling good, true stories that hopefully illuminate both the beauty and ugliness of the human experience. Finally, it’s about exploring your environment and trying to connect with good style, good food, good drink and, most of all, good people.”
The Collective Quarterly serves as a chronicle for these good people—a group of craftspeople who have been invited by the publication to explore an outlying town and its equally dexterous inhabitants. Its first issue brings four of these extraordinary artisans to the Absaroka Mountain Range of Montana, which is dotted by small municipalities that house a seemingly disproportionate amount of creative energy. Armed with their respective talents and endeavors, each artist explores the Range with the fresh eye of a frontiersman on the hunt for something that’s never been seen before. “It takes a special person to see the potential and want to pitch in,” explains Putnam, “For the first issue, we asked a lot of people, and we lucked out with the ones who said yes.”
One of these people is Illinois-based wood-sculptor Greta de Parry, who used her time at Absaroka to revisit her equestrian pastime, exploring her first horseback cattle drive while searching for a sort of divine inspiration to take back home to her studio in Chicago. Upon her return, de Parry found ways to incorporate her discoveries into a number of pieces, from a cutting board with a pattern reminiscent of the Native American symbols she had seen in Glacier National Park, to Palomino spoons that abstracted the shape of horse hooves, which she dedicates to her cattle drive experience. “I finished [the spoons] with an aspen-green arrow symbolizing the Collective’s motto: ‘always go,'” she writes in her article for The Collective Quarterly.
The project comes out of the founding members’ desire to explore more art and travel than they ever possibly could during their day jobs, mixed with an integrity often missing in today’s publications. “Most of us come from editorial backgrounds, and a commitment to good journalism is extremely important to us,” Putnam says. “We’re a team of about six working on it all the time (all in different cities), with dozens of other frequent contributors—all of whom had a special mix of talent and industriousness… and perhaps most importantly were willing to take a chance on the idea.” The magazine thus depends on a collaborative effort that equals the mastery of its team; “It’s actually a little tricky at times because we work remotely and span every time zone in the US. At any given time, we’re selling one issue, producing the next, and planning the one after that,” says Putnam. Remarkably, the team funds this endeavor with similarly synergistic support structure, using a more partnership-based model. “We wanted to flip the conventional editorial advertising model by choosing companies we respect rather than selling space to someone because they paid the most or sought us out,” Putnam explains. “We draw support from our cover price, tastefully done advertising, and then sales from the products we design in response to each trip.”
Despite the immense amount of planning that goes into each issue, the team does allow for discovery in its purest form once they reach their final destination. “We try to go in without expectations, but we were definitely happy to discover how rich the characters were in Montana,” Putnam explains. And this is truly where The Quarterly Magazine goes above or beyond. Take, for instance, the issue’s interview with writer and veteran expeditionist Doug Peacock, who speaks of his time living in seclusion in the wilderness among grizzly bears. Or its piece on Jay Polite Laber, a St. Ignatius, MT-based artist who uses scrap metal to build sculptures that honor Montana’s past, depicting native Blackfeet warriors and the buffalo which used to freely roam the land. “It’s been one of the biggest surprises for us, or perhaps confirmations,” Putnam says. “There are fascinating stories to be told everywhere; you just have to do a little digging sometimes.”
Images by Cool Hunting